The relationship between anger and depression is a complex thing, but it is also something that we subconsciously recognize. Phrases such as “depression is anger turned inward” that have found their way into common parlance clearly demonstrate that even though we are not always consciously aware of it, we all know on some level that there is a direct relationship between the two. It is perhaps this tenuous understanding that has prompted so much psychological study of that relationship.
One of the most interesting things psychologists have discovered is that depression and anger often feed each other, creating a cycle of negative emotions. The root cause of both anger and depression is stress and negativity. Generally, when something harms or provokes a person, the natural response is anger. Anger is not necessarily a negative emotion, and there are ways to properly deal with anger. However, when angry, most people will either lash out or bottle up the anger. There is a lot of pressure on people in modern society to not express anger, even in a healthy fashion, so people end up repressing their negative emotions rather than dealing with them.
The repression of this anger and other emotions is often the cause of depression. All of that anger turns inward, so instead of attacking the problem, you begin to attack yourself. You begin to focus on your own faults and failures and pull yourself down. Carol Landau, a clinical professor of psychiatry and medicine at Brown University School of Medicine in Rhode Island, studied this phenomenon and noted that the tendency to transform repressed anger in to depression is particularly prevalent in children. She found that when children have issues in their home life that prevent them from expressing and dealing with their emotions in a healthy way, they end up internalizing these emotions. This repressed anger then resurfaces as depression later in life.
Several studies have been done about the differences in the relationship between anger and depression in men and women. In a study entitled Anger and Depression in Girls and Boys: A Study of Gender Differences, psychologists found that while girls do suppress anger more frequently than males, they did not find increased levels of depression in the girls. Carol Landau’s work, however, would suggest that the girls would not experience depression until later in life. It is often thought that because it is less acceptable for women to voice their anger, they are more inclined to internalize that anger and become depressed. However, Landau found that this depression in women can be easily treated by allowing them to open up.
Unfortunately, the relationship between depression and anger is often a cyclical one, making it difficult to break away and receive help. Once repressed anger has led to depression, one often becomes withdrawn, unhappy, and easier to provoke, leading to more anger. This anger is either repressed, leading directly to more depression, or used to lash out, causing the individual to become further withdrawn. Once anger and depression have started feeding each other, it is very difficult to break that cycle. Yet not impossible, make sure to seek qualified help tp help you get out of the rut.